Humana: Ensuring Success in Changing Times

 -  4/3/08

Health insurance provider Humana revamped its HR strategy to take an integrated view of talent, linking core competencies to strategic business goals and creating a clearer line of sight for all employees.

According to an African proverb, “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.”

Talent managers at Humana, a Louisville, Ky.-based health insurance company, couldn’t agree more.

In the past decade, the health insurance industry has undergone massive change. The organization no longer serves merely as a vehicle for premium payments; it has evolved into a service and guidance provider. Additionally, many large companies such as Humana have faced major increases in claims costs. The company has projected a jump of nearly 20 percent.

To further complicate talent management concerns, the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 allowed Humana to roll out services to seniors, growing the business from roughly 14,000 to more than 25,000 employees in less than three years.

The company was certainly no stranger to upheaval. To adapt to the times, Humana adopted a more holistic approach to talent management as part of its new operating strategy or consumer engagement model. Core competencies replaced job roles, live 360s became part of employee assessments, leadership training was institutionalized, corporate visibility was established — and, of course, many new challenges arose, said Carleen Haas, vice president of human resources at Humana.

TM: Describe Humana’s approach to talent management.

Haas: A lot of companies are organized — and their infrastructure is built — around jobs. You’d say: An analyst has to have the ability to generate reports. That would be on the task list. We decided it’s great to understand what you need to do, but it’s probably more important to understand who you need to be. So we created roles that had a profile of competencies and contributions attached. We changed it to: [An analyst] has to be good at analysis, he has to have business savvy, he has to understand the system upstream and downstream. That platform allowed people to plug directly into roles and see, ‘What is it I do that creates success for the company?’ This competency and contribution system drives how we hire, how we promote, how we pay, how we develop. It’s almost like the hub of a wheel.

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